Unknown Lathe No. 70
- possibly by the German toy maker Bing -
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Just under 7 inches long and absolutely tiny in all its proportions (nothing being sacrificed to make handling easier), this newly discovered sub-miniature backgeared machine must surely dispose the famous ManSon and Adept from their place as the world's smallest conventional engineering lathes. However, is it a "real" production lathe - or a scale model? - if the latter it must surely be the best commercially-produced model lathe ever made As no others have turned up (and it may be that a similar machine was shown in a pre-WW2 Model Engineer magazine) the description "model" may well be accurate. However, no matter what it's origins or intended purpose, its general appearance and design features point to a machine that would have been current between approximately 1870 and 1900 (the shape of the headstock casting is so typical of that period), it even has a wooden tool tray, an item once common on larger plain lathes of this type. In the pictures below the tray should be at the back, the lathe being mounted the wrong way round on its feet.
With a relatively sophisticated backgeared headstock equipped with a faceplate-cum-chuck, one wonders if the maker of the model (of the original full-sized version) might originally have constructed a screw-feed compound slide rest - perhaps one is hidden away amongst the other forgotten items in the tool shed from where the lathe was retrieved.
Driven by a thin, round leather belt, the steel spindle almost certainly runs directly in the cast-iron of the headstock - the free graphite in which actually provides a good, long-lasting bearing surface - with oil provided through miniature, beautifully-proportioned oil cups. Power would most likely have come from a "foot-motor", a treadle-operated device with a small flywheel positioned under the workbench and once a common way of powering small machine tools in an amateur's workshop. The headstock pulley is most unusual, the three grooves having a coarse, grip-enhancing knurled finish - pointing to the fact that this was, perhaps, after all, intended to be used and not just a show piece (though, of course, this might not have been the maker's original finish, but one applied by a previous owner)..